zaterdag 4 juli 2009

PA verhinderde Hamas aanslag op Abbas

De PA lijkt de veiligheidssituatie op de Westoever steeds beter onder controle te hebben, en Hamas 'activisten' voelen zich schijnbaar in het nauw gedreven.
Is Haaretz politiek correct? In 'mijn tijd' gingen aktivisten de straat op met folders, affiches en spandoeken, of blokkeerden wel eens een toegangsweg voor onze tegenstanders. Staken was ook nog een optie. Een wapen en een foto van mijn doelwit heb ik nooit op zak gehad...

PA: Arrested Hamas activists planned to assassinate Abbas
By Avi Issacharoff - Haaretz
Last update - 03:21 03/07/2009

Hamas activists arrested by the Palestinian Authority have admitted to tracking the movements of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and to gathering intelligence on his security, PA sources told Haaretz.

Their motive clearly was to assassinate Abbas, the sources said.

"Hamas' intention was to scuttle the reconciliation talks [between Hamas and Fatah] in Cairo and to create chaos in the West Bank, in contrast to the sense of security that has characterized the territory for the past two years," Fatah spokesman Fahmi Zarir told Haaretz.

Palestinian Authority Secretary Taib Abd-Arahim had said Monday amid the Cairo talks that Palestinian security forces had arrested 10 Hamas members planning to attack PA institutions. The detainees admitted they were planning to assassinate several senior Palestinian Authority officials on July 1, in order to halt the conciliation talks, he said.

Now, new details have now emerged about the plot: The Hamas activists were caught with weapons, maps and photos of senior Palestinian officers. The photos and maps indicated the cell was conducting surveillance on Abbas himself.

Sources say Palestinian security forces have detailed confessions in which the suspects acknowledged planning to assassinate several PA officials and stated they were observing Abbas' movements. PA sources say their motive was clear: to assassinate Abbas. The cell had three to five members, between the ages of 25 and 30.

A spokesman for Hamas' military wing has denied the allegations. However, if they are true, this is evidence not only of Hamas' intention to scuttle reconciliation with Fatah, but also to stage a coup of sorts against the Palestinian Authority. Reports suggest Hamas' military wing has an extremist agenda, but Hamas' political leadership in the west bank is thought not to have been aware of the plot.

Saoedi-Arabië weigert concrete vredesgebaren naar Israël

Is het gewoon een kwestie van wie de eerste stap zet, het eerste gebaar maakt? Als Israel nu onafhankelijk van toezeggingen vooraf, de nederzettingenbouw bevriest en serieus werk gaat maken van het ontruimen van buitenposten, is dan niet een tegengebaar van Arabische zijde te verwachten? Omgekeerd, als de Arabieren nu zonder voorwaarden vooraf verklaren dat ze Israël willen erkennen en vrede ermee sluiten, ze hoeven wellicht nog niks concreets daarvoor te doen zoals de voorstellen hieronder, is dan niet een duidelijk tegengebaar van Israelische zijde te verwachten? Het wantrouwen is groot van beide zijden, en elk woord en gebaar wordt kritisch afgewogen. De Arabieren hebben tot nog toe geweigerd om zelfs rechtstreeks met Israel aan tafel te gaan zitten om te praten over vrede, ondanks uitnodigingen daartoe van Olmert en zelfs van Sharon.

'Saudis block US push for normalization'
There are no guarantees the Arab world would move forward with steps of normalization toward Israel if Jerusalem declared a settlement freeze, according to assessments reaching Jerusalem, even though US President Barack Obama still believes he can convince Saudi King Abdullah to make some gesture toward Israel.

The assessments come amid reports that Israel and the US are working on a package deal that may include a time-limited moratorium on settlement construction in return for gestures from the Arab world.

According to these assessments, however, the Persian Gulf and North African states are unlikely to make significant moves unless Saudi Arabia does, and the Saudis believe they made their gesture toward Israel in the form of the 2002 Arab peace initiative.

Obama, according to these reports, still believes the Saudis can be persuaded to moved on the issue.

Among the gestures being discussed are opening trade offices, direct economic links, public cultural and educational ties, as well as overfly rights for Israeli airlines.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Thursday on Israel Radio that Israel could not be expected to take immediate steps such as a settlement freeze "when the other side isn't prepared to make a small step."

Ayalon echoed what Defense Minister Ehud Barak had been saying in recent days, that any move on settlements needed to be seen as part of a wider regional picture.

He also said, in regards to calls for a freeze for natural growth construction, that Israel "cannot strangle 300,000 residents."

Ron Dermer, the director of policy planning in the Prime Minister's Office, said in a wide-ranging interview that appeared in The Jerusalem Post, "I think if people want to reach an understanding, they can reach an understanding on the issue."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who returned Wednesday from his meeting a day earlier with US envoy George Mitchell in New York, has briefed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the talks. Netanyahu and Mitchell are expected to meet in two weeks.

In the meantime, a government official said the discussions with Washington on the issue were continuing. "The policy goal at the moment is to try reaching common ground with the US, which is where the effort is being placed. We hope that it is successful."

The official also said it was Israel's hope that if an agreement was reached, it would be endorsed by the Europeans, who have become increasingly vocal in their calls for a complete settlement freeze.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday called on Israel to end settlement construction, saying such activity jeopardized efforts toward a two-state solution.

"I think it is now important to get commitments from all sides and that includes the issue of settlement building," Merkel said in a speech to the Bundestag. "I am convinced that there must be a stop to this. Otherwise we will not come to the two-state solution that is urgently needed."

Campagnes rond Israëlische voorzitter wereldartsenorganisatie WMA

Stuart Palmer is een vriendelijke Israëli van Britse afkomst met een echtgenote geboortig uit Nederland. We hebben hen ontmoet bij een bezoek aan Haifa, waar zij in 2006 onder vuur lagen van Hezbollah raketten.
Zoals veel Israëli's maakt hij zich zorgen over de talrijke anti-Israël campagnes in hun landen van herkomst. In Engeland is dat nog een stuk erger dan hier, met diverse boycot-oproepen bij onderwijsvakbonden e.d.
Deze petitie is alleen bedoeld voor medici, dus graag alleen serieuze en relevante ondertekeningen. Bijna 4.000 mensen hebben tot nu toe getekend.
Israeli Citizens Action Network             
   ICAN     For volunteer Public Diplomacy
Dear ICAN members who are members of the medical profession
Anti-Israel activity and campaigns in the medical press are unfortunately nothing new; however they have reached a new "low" in the last few months. The most recent manifestation of the anti-Israel phenomenon infecting the medical world is a letter spearheaded by Dr. Derek Summerfield and signed by 725 physicians, "publicly protesting and appealing against the recent appointment of Dr. Yoram Blachar, longstanding President of the Israeli Medical Association, as President of the World Medical Association."
The "facts" brought in the letter are nothing new. There were allegations made against Israel of torture, but no names were provided. An effort was made by the Israeli Medical Association, to speak personally with each and every physician who signed the letter, that could be located and most were never employed by, nor had any connection to, the Israeli Prison Services as claimed in the letter. Of the three who were employed there, all vigorously denied any involvement in interrogations, torture or medical approval for the above.
The letter further states that Dr. Blachar has made statements which were untrue on at least 10 occasions in the Lancet and the BMJ. No basis is made for these claims other than the opinion of the authors.
Finally, Summerfield goes so far as to accuse the IMA ethics chairman, Prof. Avinoam Reches, of being personally involved in torture. Whatever political views one may hold, we firmly believe that politics has no place in medicine. Medicine is meant to serve as a bridge, not a divide. The intermingling of medicine and politics is dangerous, particularly when opinions, presented as facts, are presented on the pages of medical journals.
The current situation is viewed as extremely dangerous for the future of Israeli medicine, of academic freedom and international cooperation.
ACTION  - IF YOU ARE INVOLVED IN THE MEDICAL PROFESSION, a letter of support for Dr. Blachar, for the IMA and for Israeli medicine can be found at:  
Please sign your name and country and in the 'Notes' section please include your title, field of medicine (or other) and place of employment. Please send this letter on to others who you feel might be similarly interested in expressing support. 
Stuart Palmer

IDF schiet jonge Palestijnse moeder neer bij checkpoint?

Waar de IDF al niet goed voor is. Een paar jaar terug werd er bericht over Palestijnen die zich opzettelijk lieten opsluiten om in Israelische gevangenissen rustig en comfortabel te kunnen studeren (van Israelisch belastingsgeld?), en nu levert Israel ook onbedoeld hulp bij zelfdoding?
Als haar poging geslaagd was, had Israel weer internationale veroordelingen aan haar broek gehad van bijv. de VN Mensenrechtenraad, wegens het neerknallen van een jonge Palestijnse moeder met een speelgoedgeweertje, met in de NRC een foto van een huilend weeskind...

Palestinian woman wounded by IDF fire Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
A Palestinian woman carrying a suspicious object was moderately wounded by IDF fire on Friday morning near the Bekaot checkpoint in the Jordan Valley, north of Jericho.

The soldiers shot at the woman's lower body after shooting in the air and after she did not heed their calls to stop advancing towards them, the military said.

After the woman was shot, the soldiers discovered she was carrying a toy gun. She was evacuated to Haemek Hospital in Afula in moderate condition.

An officer of the Civil Administration who interrogated the wounded woman asked her why she acted in the way she did. She showed him bruise marks on her hands and said she wanted to kill herself after having been abused in her house. The woman is an 18-year-old, married with a child.

The IDF said troops at the checkpoint acted according to protocol.

Three years ago, a gunman shot and killed an IDF soldier at the same checkpoint. IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Ro'i Farjun was killed at there in August 2006, after a Palestinian opened fire at him. Troops returned fire, killing the gunman.

IDF reaktie op Gaza rapport Amnesty International

De IDF bijt stevig van zich af in onderstaande reaktie op het rapport van Amnesty International over de Gaza Oorlog, zonder echter op specifieke aanklachten in te gaan. Of het wijs is van Israel om medewerking te weigeren aan dit onderzoek of het nog lopende VN onderzoek is maar de vraag. Uit eigen IDF onderzoek bleek het merendeel van de Palestijnse doden wel degelijk strijders te betreffen, maar dat overtuigde weinigen omdat het IDF natuurlijk niet onpartijdig is. De Palestijnse bronnen van Amnesty in de door Hamas gecontroleerde Gazastrook kunnen echter evenmin zonder meer worden vertrouwd, en ook de Verenigde Naties is berucht om haar anti-Israel beleid. Amnesty lijkt zich echter vierkant achter de VN-lijn te scharen.
Dat Amnesty, dat overigens ook Hamas beschuldigde van schending van het internationaal humanitaire recht, tot een wapenembargo tegen beide partijen oproept totdat het oorlogsrecht gewaarborgd kan worden, is onhoudbaar. Hamas - en Hezbollah - gaat toch wel door met de smokkel van door Iran en co geleverde wapens, en de precisiewapens die Israel vaak gebruikt hebben juist tot doel het aantal burgerslachtoffers te minimaliseren. Dat er toch nog honderden burgerdoden vielen komt deels door grove onverschilligheid bij soldaten en commandanten, maar hoofdzakelijk door de aard van de a-symetrische strijd tegen een guerrillaleger in een dichtbevolkt gebied, en soms door domme misverstanden in de mist van de oorlog.

IDF response to Amnesty Report
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)
2 July 2009

We find it both questionable and objectionable that a well-respected and ostensibly objective international organization such as Amnesty could produce a report on Operation Cast Lead without properly recognizing the unbearable reality of nine years of incessant and indiscriminate rocket fire on the citizens of Israel. The slant of their report indicates that the organization succumbed to the manipulations of the Hamas terror organization.

Operation Cast Lead was a result of nine years of Hamas' unrelenting Kassam, Grad and mortar shell fire on more than a quarter of a million of Israel's citizens. Rocket fire was Hamas' preferred terror tactic, and they ruthlessly used populated areas of the Gaza Strip in order to carry out their attacks.

We did not find in the report a proper reference to the reality of the Israeli home front or to Israeli security concerns, and therefore the report seems unbalanced. It presents a distorted view of the laws of war that does not comply with the rules implemented by democratic states battling terror.

It also ignores the efforts of the IDF to minimize as much as possible harming uninvolved noncombatant civilians. During Operation Cast Lead, the IDF utilized various fighting methods and advanced technology to minimize harm to the civilian population, while engaging terrorists who were operating from densely populated areas and using the local population as a "human shield."

In many cases, areas in which strikes of legitimate targets were to take place, as required by international law, the IDF warned the local population prior to the attack, via leaflets, radio broadcasts, and direct calls to private cellular telephones. It should be stated that the IDF only targeted military targets and avoided harming civilians, sometimes to the detriment of its own military interests.

In addition, during Operation Cast Lead, the IDF enabled for the transfer of humanitarian aid and also instated a daily several hour cease fire so that the goods could be safely distributed.

The Amnesty report ignores a critical aspect of Operation Cast Lead - Hamas consistently, deliberately and routinely violated International Law, specifically the prohibition against the use of "human shields." While Hamas was using Palestinian civilian centers to fire rockets at the citizens of Israel, the IDF went to great lengths to combat their terrorism while maintaining a firm commitment to the laws of war.

Documented evidence, from aerial drones, ground footage and independent accounts, prove, beyond all doubt, that Hamas deliberately exploited population centers - including medical, educational, recreational and religious facilities - to provide tactical cover for their terror activities.

It is to Amnesty International's discredit that the report they issued, focuses so intently on any and all IDF infractions, and ignores the blatant violations of international law perpetrated by Hamas.

Out of a professional, ethical and judicial obligation to thoroughly inspect certain claims made regarding Operation Cast Lead, the IDF conducted a number of investigations following the operation. The investigations proved that the IDF operated throughout the fighting in accordance with international law, maintaining high ethical and professional standards and in many incidents, for the sake of avoiding harm to unassociated civilians, even limited itself beyond existing judicial obligations. Nonetheless, the investigations found a few, unfortunate incidents that are unavoidable during combat - especially the type of combat Hamas forced upon the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, when it chose to fight from within civilian population centers.

In addition to the investigations ordered by the Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the IDF is currently looking into complaints that were received from various sources - private lawyers, human rights organizations (including Amnesty) and media outlets (both domestic and international) - that raise different questions regarding the way in which the IDF operated during Operation Cast Lead. In certain cases, the Chief Military Advocate has already ordered the opening of a criminal investigation.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

vrijdag 3 juli 2009

Hamas legt 'Koran belasting' op in Gazastrook

Vaak wordt gezegd dat Hamas geen islamitische staat wil stichten en geen religieuze regels oplegt. Religie en een extremistische ideologie zijn bij Hamas overigens nauw verbonden, en in die religieuze centra zullen Palestijnen weer fraaie dingen leren over de Joden en het Westen, en over de heilige strijd voor de bevrijding van geheel Palestina, en dat het martelarenschap het hoogst haalbare is....


Gaza: Hamas imposes 'Koran levy'
Salaries of public officials in Strip to be cut in effort to reinforce Koran study centers
Ali Waked - YNET
Special Hamas tax: The Hamas government in Gaza has recently decided to cut the salaries of Palestinian Authority employees in the Strip in order to finance Koran studies.

In an effort to reinforce Koran study centers across Gaza, Hamas has decided to deduct one percent of the salaries of public officials in the Strip and earmark the funds to the Koran schools.

Notably, Koran study centers in the Strip are considered a major Hamas power source used to elicit support for the organization.

Dr. Taleb Abu Sha'r, the Minister for Religious Affairs in the Hamas government, said the decision aims to encourage Koran studies and religious devotion.

"The decision proves that the government attaches great importance to those who teach and study the Koran, and it expresses a desire to assist them," he said.

The new "Koran levy" is not the only unusual tax introduced by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Every few months, the Hamas government enforces a deduction in the salaries of each public official in order to pay unemployment allowances in the Strip.

Is een vernederd Israel in Amerika's belang?

Ik kan dit artikel hartgrondig onderschrijven, zoals geldt voor meer artikelen van Ari Shavit.
Het valt te hopen dat het ook in Amerikaanse regeringskringen wordt gelezen.
Ik zou er nog aan toe kunnen voegen dat een evenwichtigere houding van de VS de bereidheid tot concessies in zowel Israel als onder de Palestijnen zal vergroten. Juist de eenzijdige focus van de VS (en de rest van de wereld) op de nederzettingen en ander (vermeend) Israelisch onrecht versterkt nationalistische sentimenten in Israel, terwijl die focus de Palestijnen het gevoel geeft dat zij niks hoeven doen en kunnen afwachten totdat de VS Israel dwingt hun eisen in te willigen, zoals Abbas met zoveel woorden in de Washington Post heeft gezegd.


Last update - 04:44 02/07/2009 
Is a crushed Israel in America's best interest? 
By Ari Shavit, Haaretz Correspondent

Seven months after Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election, it is still not clear what the United States' new strategic goal is: halting Iran's nuclear program, or learning to live with a nuclear Iran? It is also not clear what the new U.S. vision for the Middle East is: a partial but realistic peace, or a full but fictitious peace? It is not clear whether Obama's United States plans to isolate Middle Eastern extremists or encourage them. It is not clear what its attitude toward Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran will be. Nor is it clear whether it will leave Iraq victorious or defeated. But, on one issue, there is no doubt. In everything related to Israel, Obama's United States has adopted a tough-love strategy.

"Tough love" is a loaded phrase. It has educational, emotional and sometimes even sexual connotations. It encompasses the paternalistic belief that the educator knows what's better for the pupil's welfare than the pupil does. Therefore, it has traditionally been associated with reform schools and patronizing conservatism.

Recently, however, "tough love" has become the rage in liberal circles in Washington and New York. Democratic opinion leaders - many of them Jewish - have begun to speak with shining eyes about the need to administer a dose of tough love to Israel: to train it, wean it, set boundaries for it. To force it against its will to do what is good for it.

Israel, for its part, has done quite a bit to bolster the tough-love advocates. The pampered Israeli-American princess abused its status as the apple of Uncle Sam's eye. For years, it made a mockery of the U.S. administration and embarked on a spree of settlements, checkpoints and illegal outposts. With reckless abandon, it threw off every yoke and waved a red flag at the good and the great in America's capital.

Therefore, when Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel entered the White House, many people advised them to tame the rebel. And the president and his chief of staff received the advice enthusiastically. To the two tough guys from Chicago, the idea of loving Israel in a strong, painful manner sounded cool.

The results can be seen almost every day on television screens throughout the world: an American policy taken straight out of a British public school. A diplomacy comprised of public reprimands. The new United States is trying to wean Israel from its bad habits by means of the teacher's ruler. Even as it bows and scrapes to Saudi Arabia and is scrupulously careful of Iran's honor, it humiliates Israel. The president's feet on the table were a message. The goal is a well-trained, obedient Israel.

The United States is a superpower. If the United States wants a broken, battered Israel, it will get a broken, battered Israel. This is a collision between a tank and an ATV, between a stealth bomber and a glider. But the question the White House ought to be asking itself is whether riding roughshod over Israel serves its goals - whether a crushed Israel is an American interest.

The answer is unequivocal: no. Already, Israel's public humiliation is hurting America. It is making even moderate Arabs unwilling to contribute anything to advancing the diplomatic process. And without a significant Arab contribution, there will be no diplomatic process.

But a continued tough love policy toward Israel is liable to do damage that is far more serious - and irreversible. Without a strong Israel, a Middle East peace can neither be established nor survive. Without a strong Israel, the Middle East will go up in flames.

Therefore, instead of playing games taken out of a basic training manual, Americans and Israelis must work in harmony. They must think outside the box and come up with a creative solution, based on listening to each other and mutual respect. They must jointly advance a genuine regional peace.

The hour is late. Both Obama's government and Benjamin Netanyahu's government have made serious mistakes the last few months. But ultimately, both Obama and Netanyahu are worthy leaders who want to do the right thing. Therefore, the two must stop the dangerous game they are playing. The time has come to replace tough love with sensible, grown-up love.

Volgens IDF onderzoek werd meisje in Gaza gedood door Palestijns mortiervuur

Door wie is het meisje gedood? Voor de Palestijnen is zij hoe dan ook een martelaar en het zoveelste symbool van de strijd tegen het wrede en machtige Israel. Voor Israel is dit het zoveelste voorbeeld van hoe Hamas de eigen bevolking in gevaar brengt en daar politiek gewin uit probeert te slaan.

IDF initial probe: Gaza girl killed by Palestinian mortar shells
yaakov katz and staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
A 17-year-old Palestinian girl was killed, and five other civilians were wounded on Thursday during a fire exchange between Gaza gunmen and soldiers from an IDF patrol, after the patrol was fired upon near the Nahal Oz Crossing.

Palestinian sources earlier said an IDF tank shell which landed in the central Gaza Strip killed the girl. The sources said at least five people were wounded in the incident.

The military said the troops responded with gunfire and mortar shells, but did not use tanks. It said mortar shells fired by the soldiers landed in open areas in the Gaza Strip.

The army added that all of the mortar shells fired by the Palestinians landed inside the Gaza Strip.

Shortly after the event took place, Hamas announced that the victim was actually a three-year-old girl.

The Hamas claim regarding the victim's age could not be confirmed.

No soldiers were wounded in the attack.

There was no word on whether the gunmen incurred casualties.

Joodse heilige boeken vernield in 'ontruimde' nederzetting Homesh

Als Israel deze nederzetting heeft ontruimd, moet het er natuurlijk op toezien dat dat ook zo blijft, en niet toelaten dat in hoekjes en gaatjes van de vernielde huizen toch nog mensen samenkomen, zogenaamd om te studeren. De wet is de wet en de staat moet die handhaven. Nu de Palestijnen hier boeken hebben verbrand proberen de kolonisten van Homesh een symbool te maken van 'verzet'. De regering had dat beter kunnen voorkomen. Uiteraard is de Palestijnse actie op geen enkele wijze goed te keuren, maar de krokodillentranen van de kolonisten zijn hier ongepast.

Suspicion: Palestinians burned holy Jewish books at Homesh
Dozens of Talmuds, bibles, prayer books defaced at unauthorized yeshiva located in evacuated West Bank settlement; Minister Edelstein demands permanent structure, adequate protection for Jewish students
Efrat Weiss - YNET
Police suspect that Palestinians defaced and burned holy books at a yeshiva located on the grounds of the evacuated West Bank settlement of Homesh.
"The sight was awful," the yeshiva's dean, Rabbi Elishamah Cohen, told Ynet. "Dozens of holy books - Talmuds, bibles, and prayer books - were almost completely burned."

Police have launched an investigation, but no perpetrators have been detained as of yet.

Homesh was evacuated during Israel's unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank in the summer of 2005. Since then, right-wing activists have made repeated attempts to rebuild the settlement, and every once in a while IDF forces arrive at the site to evacuate them.

About a dozen people have returned to Homesh to live and study in a wooden structure housing a yeshiva. Several weeks ago, security forces destroyed the yeshiva, but students have made use of a remaining courtyard of one of the homes destroyed during the Disengagement.

It is suspected that Palestinians raided the yeshiva while its students were visiting the nearby settlement Shavei Shomron. "It is evident that the Arabs who torched the holy books did so meticulously," said Rabbi Cohen. "The books were almost completely charred. We managed to salvage a few pages."

Yossi Dagan of Homesh First, the grassroots group planning to rebuild the West Bank settlement, said "we demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu order the establishment of a large, official settlement in Homesh. This should be the government's response to this national humiliation."

Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein (Likud) called on the government to erect a permanent structure that will house the yeshiva and see to it that the students are protected "so that such severe anti-Semitic incidents will not repeat themselves".

VS krijgt Arabieren nog niet in beweging voor gebaar richting Israel

Achter de schermen is Obama wel degelijk bezig om ook van de Arabische staten dingen gedaan te krijgen, al lijkt de toon wat minder dwingend en eisend te zijn dan naar Israel toe. Sowieso spreekt de VS zich publiekelijk nauwelijks uit over wat de Arabische staten en de Palestijnen moeten doen, en lijkt alleen Israel van alles te moeten. Hopelijk is haar beleid achter de schermen evenwichtiger, wat ook het draagvlak in Israel voor concessies zal vergroten.
Israeli source: U.S. can't get Arabs to commit to normalizing Israel ties
By Barak Ravid and Cnaan Liphshiz - Haaretz
Last update - 08:26 02/07/2009

The U.S. administration has not been successful in securing commitments from Arab countries to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel, a senior source in Jerusalem said Wednesday.

The source said U.S. President Barack Obama's recent meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia did not produce a commitment to encourage the other Arab states to begin normalization.

"In such a situation, the Americans can't continue demanding gestures only from Israel, such as the demand that Israel freeze settlement construction," the source said.

In response, a senior White House source said talks with the Arab states are continuing with the aim of obtaining a commitment to make gestures toward Israel, and there is still hope for progress.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak returned to Israel on Wednesday from a meeting with U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell. A senior White House official confirmed reports that progress was made on the issue of settlements, though no agreement had been reached. He added that similar progress had been made in contacts with Arab countries.

Haaretz has learned that the talks with Mitchell included discussions of a package deal to include a curb on settlement construction. Barak reportedly argued that any steps taken by Israel would have to be accompanied by assurances that the Arab states would also move forward. This would lay the groundwork for resumed talks on a final regional peace agreement.

Within the next two weeks or so, Mitchell is expected to visit Israel to continue talks.

A senior diplomatic source said that even if a meeting between Mitchell and the prime minister doesn't resolve the settlement issue, it will narrow the gap, and the prime minister may request a meeting with Obama in Washington in the coming months to seal an agreement.

Barak noted that if a package deal is reached, Israel might agree to a temporary construction freeze in the settlements, but this would not apply to more than 2,000 housing units already being built.

Also yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the traditional Independence Day reception at the residence of the American ambassador, James Cunningham. Netanyahu spoke of shared values with the United States but did not address the settlement issue. Although many senior Israeli politicians attended the event, turnout was lighter than usual.

By attending, Knesset members ignored the call by Likud MK Danny Danon, who wrote a letter to his parliamentary colleagues this week urging them to boycott the event. He said America "was trying to call into question the State of Israel's independence" by pressuring it to halt construction in the West Bank and agree to territorial concessions to the Palestinians.

A senior diplomat said he was puzzled by the logic behind Danon's proposal. He said that despite any disagreements, the event was meant to honor the American people, not any administration.

In his address, Netanyahu highlighted the democratic traditions of Israel and the United States, which he said united them in the face of tyranny. Referring to Obama's recent speech in Cairo, he noted the president's reference to the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States.

Bassem Eid over het corruptie probleem in de Palestijnse Autoriteit

Een ondergesneeuwd onderwerp vanwege de eenzijdige aandacht voor de Israelische nederzettingen: de corruptie in de Palestijnse Autoriteit is nog steeds een groot probleem, en is een van de redenen dat veel Palestijnen geen eigen staat onder dit gezag willen. Voor een functionerende Palestijnse staat is meer nodig dan dat Israel bereid is gebied over te dragen.

The cost of corruption
Jul. 1, 2009

The Palestinian Authority, formed in 1994 in collaboration between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the government of Israel as a result of the Oslo Accords, controlled the entire area of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip until June 2007. Then Hamas forces took over the Strip, seizing the military facilities controlled by Fatah under Mahmoud Abbas's management, and proceeded to execute officers in the security forces. In response, Abbas dissolved the Palestinian Legislative Council and declared a state of emergency.

Despite this body blow, the corruption of the PA remains as strong as ever, with more new layers constantly revealing themselves to the population at large.

A close friend who recently moved from Gaza City to Ramallah with his wife and two young children told me that the cost of each passport for a Gazan citizen is almost NIS 1,200, as opposed to NIS 235 prior to the Hamas takeover - just one of the consequences of the political disputes between the governments of Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in Ramallah.

After the takeover, several administrative offices had been formed in Gaza whose duties included the distribution of passports to civilians. I can't fathom how these offices transfer the passport requests from Gaza to Ramallah. I do not rule out the possibility that they are in fact smuggled through the tunnels and sent via Egyptian mail to Ramallah.

Today there is a serious passport shortage in the Gaza Strip. The PA, to help remedy that problem, is supposed to pass out about 5,000 new passports every month to citizens in the Gaza Strip. Hamas uses passports by selectively distributing them to the people within its government instead of making them available to anyone applying for them. The lack of passports in Gaza has brought a major increase in demand and even 10,000 new passports issued a month would not be enough to relieve the deficit.

The PA doesn't want to provide the necessary number of passports to the Gaza Strip, since it sees the dearth of passports as a useful tool with which to pressure the Hamas government into returning what it acquired in the takeover.

Hamas, however, is far more worried about regional politics than in the life of the Gaza Strip population.

I WOULD like to add another anecdote to this story: My brother, Hatem Abdulqader, was appointed 40 days ago to be the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs in the Salaam Fayad government. However, his new employer wasn't able to provide him with an office. No one in the government was able to tell my brother to his face that every minister needs a chair, a table and coffee utensils to serve the people who come to his office to congratulate him. When I heard about this, I lent my brother NIS 10,000 to find an office.

Eventually, he had to build one for himself. He had approached the Ministry of Finance many times requesting an office, a chair and a desk, but was told time again that the PA's cash register was empty.

This episode enraged me. Why is it necessity to appoint so many ministers to form a government? Why is the PA in need of $100 million each month for salaries? Where does all this money go? What do all these ministers do for their people?

In the television broadcast showing my brother being sworn in as minister, he raised his hand and swore by the Koran to be loyal to his people and country. If I were him, I would refuse to take this vow in front of Abbas or Fayad. I would be willing to take the oath only when the people standing in front of me are responsible enough to uphold this vow themselves.

The Fayad government actually wanted to use my brother to commit perjury, to swear in front of the entire Palestinian nation in the name of a useless government.

The writer is the founder and director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group based in east Jerusalem.

Israël en Palestijnen: geef 'ander' niet de schuld

Een genuanceerd stuk in de Volkskrant woensdag van Bert de Bruin. Hij ergert zich aan de propagandisten van beide kanten en vraagt zich af hoeveel beide partijen daarmee opschieten, en of zij in feite niet meer schade berokkenen.
Zolang te veel buitenstaanders eerder worden geleid door antipathieën dan door sympathieën, voelen de fanatieke Palestijnen en Israëliërs zich in hun gelijk gesterkt en worden de gematigde geluiden – van hen die inzien dat de juiste weg die van dialoog en imperfecte compromissen is – gesmoord.
Het zou de Volkskrant en andere kranten sieren als zij ongenuanceerde columnisten a la Anton van Hooff en Thomas von der Dunk op hun eenzijdige en soms ook ophitsende stukken zouden aanspreken, en als zij opiniestukken die vol onjuistheden zitten niet meer zouden publiceren.

Geef 'ander' niet de schuld

Bert de Bruin , 01-07-2009 11:46
De opiniepagina Forum en de opiniesite van de Volkskrant weerspiegelen het soort steun waarop Israël en de Palestijnen kunnen rekenen van de kant van veel betrokken buitenstaanders. Met een zekere regelmaat lezen we artikelen, geschreven door pro-Palestijnse en/of anti-Israëlische sympathisanten en (ex-)politici, waarin opgeroepen wordt om actie tegen Israël te ondernemen.

Het is zonder meer redelijk om de halsstarrige houding van de huidige Israëlische regering zeer kritisch te benaderen, te veroordelen en wellicht te ontmoedigen.


Toch valt het steeds weer op dat mensen als Dries van Agt, Thomas von der Dunk, Martijn van Dam en Jack van Ham Israël vrijwel exclusief de schuld toeschrijven. Op een enkele gratuite veroordeling van terreur na, zul je hen zelden of nooit horen toegeven dat niet alleen maar Israël fout bezig is en moet worden terechtgewezen.

Dergelijke artikelen worden dan weer gevolgd door een Pavlov-stuk (op zijn site gebruikt hij zelf de veelzeggende term 'tegenartikel') van 'huiscolumnist' Yochanan Visser, wiens opinie zich niet zelden rechts van de officiële Israëlische lijn bevindt.

Visser probeert aan te tonen hoezeer Van Agt, Van Dam en Van Ham het bij het verkeerde eind hebben, hoe goed de bedoelingen van Israël en hoe slecht de bedoelingen van de Palestijnen zijn, en dat niet Israël, maar de Palestijnen schuldig zijn aan de eeuwige voortduring van het conflict.

Na het lezen van Vissers stukken zou ik soms bijna denken dat de bezetting van de Westoever een zegening is, zo niet voor de gehele mensheid dan toch zeker voor de Palestijnen.

De commentaren bij al deze artikelen – die steevast op honderden reacties kunnen rekenen – laten zien dat de vaste feedbackers vaak nog grotere oogkleppen op hebben dan de schrijvers van de artikelen. Voor zowel de activisten als de online commentatoren geldt: wie bij dit conflict eenmaal partij heeft gekozen, lijkt zich totaal blind te staren op de schuld van de 'andere' partij en het slachtofferschap van zijn 'eigen' kant.

Niemand lijkt in staat of bereid te zijn om in te zien dat zijn 'eigen' partij – Israël dan wel de Palestijnen en/of de Arabische landen (en Iran) – medeschuldig is, grove fouten maakt, mensenrechten schendt, en liters water bij de wijn moet doen om tot een leefbare, vreedzame, onderhandelde oplossing van het conflict te komen.

Deze eenogige, fanatieke blindheid wordt helemaal duidelijk zodra er woorden als 'proportionaliteit' vallen.

Nog moeilijker lijkt het om toe te geven dat ook burgers van de 'andere' partij onder het conflict lijden
Zo noemde Thomas von der Dunk ooit het aantal gedode Israëlische burgerslachtoffers 'een verwaarloosbare fractie' van het aantal Palestijnse. Afgezien van de minachting voor alle slachtoffers die daaruit spreekt (ik probeer altijd slachtoffers als mensen te zien, niet als statistieken of nummers), vraag ik me af wat de Palestijnse slachtoffers voor zulk medeleven kopen.

Zoals zoveel oorlogen is ook dit conflict er een van absolute waarheden, van absolute schuld, van ultieme daders tegenover ultieme slachtoffers. Het gelijk van de één schijnt automatisch het ongelijk van de ander te betekenen. Was het allemaal maar zo simpel.

Natuurlijk, de bezetting en het nederzettingenbeleid zijn fout en onverkoopbaar. De huidige Israëlische regering probeert krampachtig zichzelf en haar bevolking wijs te maken dat de wereld het nederzettingenbeleid uiteindelijk wel zal accepteren. Diezelfde regering negeert en stimuleert, door zich in dat beleid vast te bijten, veel buiten- en binnenlandse gevaren die Israël werkelijk bedreigen.

Dit alles betekent echter niet dat de nederzettingen het enige obstakel op de lange weg naar vrede zijn (de bezetting is voor veel Israëlhaters slechts een excuus, niet de hoofdoorzaak van hun haat), en evenmin dat Israël de enige versjteerder in de regio is. Ook aan de kant van de Palestijnen – en van hun Arabische en Iraanse 'broeders' en broodheren – moet veel veranderen voordat vrede en een Palestijnse staat binnen handbereik komen.

Ik heb het idee dat van alle betrokken buitenstaanders Barack Obama momenteel als een van de weinigen begrijpt dat waar twee al zolang kijven de eeuwige schuldvraag minder belangrijk is dan het vinden van een oplossing waar beide partijen letterlijk mee kunnen leven. Amerikaanse en Europese betrokkenheid is van levensbelang voor wat er over is van het vredesproces.

De basis voor zo'n oplossing is er in principe, iedereen weet hoe zo'n oplossing er uiteindelijk zal uitzien. De zogenaamde supporters van deze of gene partij in het conflict kunnen hun 'eigen' partij geen betere dienst bewijzen dan door de zinloze queeste naar absolute schuld, volkomen rechtvaardigheid en perfecte oplossingen op te geven, door in te zien en uit te dragen dat beide volken recht hebben op rust en vrede binnen twee naast elkaar levende staten, en door hun contactpersonen binnen hun 'eigen' partij ervan te overtuigen dat compromissen onvermijdelijk zijn, en dat het gelijk en de rechten van de één niet per se de schuld, het onrecht en het ongelijk van de ander hoeft te betekenen.

Zolang te veel buitenstaanders eerder worden geleid door antipathieën dan door sympathieën, voelen de fanatieke Palestijnen en Israëliërs zich in hun gelijk gesterkt en worden de gematigde geluiden – van hen die inzien dat de juiste weg die van dialoog en imperfecte compromissen is – gesmoord.


Bert de Bruin is historicus. In 1995 emigreerde hij naar Israël. Zijn weblog is te vinden op

IDF legt militaire training op Golan stil om natuur te ontzien

De natuur en het leger, dat gaat niet altijd goed samen, en het ligt voor de hand dat een land dat zo afhankelijk is van een goed getraind leger als Israel het leger voorrang geeft. Toch houdt men ook rekening met de natuur, en wordt op de berg Hermon op de Golanhoogvlakte een maand niet getraind.

Greens delighted as IDF bows to nature's needs on Mount Hermon
By Eli Ashkenazi - Haaretz
The Israel Defense Forces canceled all training exercises on the upper reaches of Mount Hermon over the summer, to avoid harming the area's unique flora and fauna. This a critical period for many local species.

"This is a very significant step," said Aviad Blasky, an inspector for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. "The area above the 1,800-meter line - that is, the very top of the Hermon - is a unique area. In this area, spring is just now ending. Plants have stopped budding and are beginning to dry out and scatter their seed. This is also a critical period for the wildlife. The young reptiles, mammals and birds who have emerged into the world are now learning how to manage on their own."

Yoav Perlman of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel says that "the Hermon has a special and sensitive ecosystem, inhabited by unique species that are found nowhere else." An article by Dr. Ori Fragman-Sapir, chief scientist of the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, listed more than 230 different kinds of plant life alone that are found on the Hermon, but not anywhere else in Israel.

Col. Yehuda Yehohnanov, commander of the Hermon Brigade, said the decision seemed natural to him. "We're a state that has an army, not vice versa," he said. Both the army and nature need the mountain, he explained, so they need to find a way to live together.

Since he took over the brigade, Yehohnanov added, the area's "nature gurus" have infected him with their enthusiasm to such an extent that he now asks all the researchers who come to the area to brief him on their findings.

Because of the area's uniqueness, the Israel Parks and Nature Protection Authority conducted a study to determine when each species breeds and propagates. Based on this study, it defined mid-June to mid-July as the most critical period and so informed the army, at the latter's request.

The army does not conduct a lot of activity on Mount Hermon in any case. Nevertheless, a bullet can cause damage, and so can the very sound of the shots.

"This is noise that definitely drives birds away from their nests," said Blasky. "The nests would be then be left with eggs that are no longer being incubated, or nestlings that would get dehydrated."

Another concern, he said, is that soldiers or vehicles would trample on or run over plants and animals.

After the authority discussed its concerns with the army, the latter agreed to completely shut down training activity for one month.

"This will be a month of complete quiet," Blasky said. "Even planes aren't flying here this month."

Nevertheless, there are some who say even the new arrangement falls short of what is needed.

"Had they consulted us, we would have said that it [the quiet season] needs to start earlier," Perlman said.

Abbas steunt toch nominatie Dode Zee als wereldwonder

Een ECHT wereldwonder zou zijn als er na zo'n 100 jaar alsnog vrede en harmonie zou uitbreken in het Midden-Oosten, maar alle beetjes helpen...

Palestinians backtrack, support Dead Sea for '7 wonders'
By Haaretz Service
Last update - 17:00 01/07/2009

The Dead Sea will make the list of candidates for the new "Seven Natural Wonders of the World", after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed Wednesday to support the initiative.

Abbas' support comes less than a week after the Palestinian Authority said it would not support the Dead Sea's candidacy, because it is being sponsored by a West Bank settler council in the Jordan Valley.

The New 7 Wonders of Nature is a global Internet contest under the slogan: "If we want to save anything, we first need to truly appreciate it." In 2007 it chose the new seven man-made wonders of the world.

Its rules state that if a nominee site is located in more than one country, all countries in which it is located must form an Official Supporting Committee (OSC) by July 7.

For the Dead Sea, a win would highlight the environmental threat to a unique lake which has shrunk dramatically in the past 30 years due to human exploitation of the Jordan River feed waters and Dead Sea mineral extraction

Israelisch-Palestijnse onderhandelingen via Facebook en Twitter

"Do you know how hard it is for Arabs and Jews to insult each other in only 35 words?"
Is Facebook an Israeli plot to control the world?
Jun. 30, 2009
ray hanania , THE JERUSALEM POST

Why would the Israelis want to control the world when they are having a hard enough time trying to control themselves? Still, it's a question worth pondering especially in the age of the Internet and the rise of the Zionist conspiracy called "Facebook." Let's "faceit," Facebook has a very strong Israeli face. Well, that's if you assume all Jews are Israelis and all Israelis are Jews. The evidence suggests a link.

The founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was born on May 14, 1984. Coincidence? (Hint, Israel's birthday!) And 1984 - the subject of George Orwell's book about the battle to control the world! Zuckerberg is from New York, or, little Israel as Osama bin Laden refers to it. He launched Facebook from his dorm room at Harvard, a scholarly institution controlled by, you know who. No! Not Jews. Presbyterians. (Jews think they control the media, the Arabs believe the Jews control the media and the Presbyterians do control the media. And Presbyterians are not sure who they dislike more, Jews or Arabs.)

Palestinians complain they have an extremely difficult time on Facebook. Do they join the Zionist entity and engage in "normalization" or do they go to the Arab alternative, Berqabook?

I HAVE my own tribulations with Facebook. I have been booted from the worldwide entity twice! Coincidence? The first time, I was writing criticism of the Israeli government. The second time, just this past week, I was writing criticism of the Israeli government. (Actually, I always write criticism of the Israeli government, but so what?) Immediately after and without notice, Facebook shut my account and my 1,363 "friends" vanished off my computer "facescreen" like "born again Christians" scooped up in the rapture. (That's where Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel turn on the Jewish state and read the fine print that if Jews don't convert to Christianity, they get punished like the Muslims.)

I am slowly working my way back from "Ground Zero" and no friends to recovery. I know have 124 "friends as of this writing." What I am learning is that I now have 1,363 people who were once "friends" and who are now angry at me, thinking that I "de-friended" them. Oops! (De-friending someone to a Facebook-nick is like anti-Semitism to a Jew.) About 911 of those former "friends" are Arabs, mostly relatives. (Yes, "Hanania is my last name" has a group on Facebook.) It includes the 15 Saudis whom I don't know but who asked to be my "friend" using a library computer at Guantanamo.

But de-friending 896 relatives and Arabs is the quintessential definition of Jeeeehad! I'll never make my "fourth wife" goal at this rate.

SO I HAVE to slowly re-friend people, one-by-one, cursing my Zionist entity nemesis, "Maaaark Zuuckerberg!" Worse in all this is the jolt to my ego. I went from 1,363 "friends" to zero friends, reminding me that no matter where I live, I am little more than a Palestinian refugee in a harsh and insensitive world of YouTube videos, Twitter and podcasting.

There is something nice about not having people to argue with, though. Yes. In making "friends" on Facebook, you are actually setting yourself up for conflict, which is the dark side of the Facebook experience. The worst thing to do on Facebook is to let your heart do the talking. I've gotten into so many mini-Suez Canal wars with Israelis, but into even more "Black September" battles with Arabs.

The Americans are like "duh!" They friend me, read that I am "Arab" and then say good-bye, explaining they thought I was Puerto Rican. Americans are the most educated people in the world but the least educated about the world. They can't tell the difference between a Palestinian and a Pakistani, an Indian and an Iranian. And a good president and a moron. Well, that was before President Obama, who I love! "Yalla habeeby Barack Hussein! Luuu luuuu luuuu luuuu luuuu!" Give me a gun and I can do that celebratory dance Vanessa Redgrave did so salaciously years ago.

Maybe, though, we should use Facebook as a new forum for negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. And make them post their views using Twitter, which forces each side to limit their disparaging comments about each side to only 140 characters, including spaces, which comes to about 35 words.

Do you know how hard it is for Arabs and Jews to insult each other in only 35 words? We can only hope. Hey Bibi. Do you want to be my friend?

The writer is a Palestinian American comedian, columnist and Chicago radio talk show host.

Hamas reaktie op toespraken Obama en Netanjahoe

Hamas' gematigde reactie op Obama en Netanjahoe:

Meshaal said Hamas opposed Israel as a Jewish state because that would amount to the denial of the rights of the six million Palestinian refugees.

"The enemy's leaders call for a so-called Jewish state is a racist demand that is no different from calls by Italian Fascists and Hitler's Nazism," Mashaal said.

Emad Gad, political analyst and expert on Palestinain-Israeli conflict said Meshaal's speech represented Hamas's official response to the two previous official speeches from Obama and Netanyahu.

Hamas staat een islamitische Arabische staat voor, maar een Joodse staat daarnaast, nee, dat is toch wel erg racistisch en zelfs fascistisch...
Lees het democratische, humanistische en vredelievende handvest van Hamas.

[ Friday, 26 June 2009 ] 

Meshaal calls Israeli government a "fascist" one
Hamas leader calls for action to Obama's words

CAIRO (Marwa Awad)
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal welcomed Thursday the change in tone from Washington towards his Islamist movement but said action was still needed as he hit out on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and called his right-wing government "fascist."

In a televised address from Damascus following United States President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo, Mashaal welcomed Obama's overtures to Hamas as "the first step towards direct talks," but stressed that action as well as unconditional direct talks with Palestinian resistance groups should be the outcome of any outreach.

"Working with Hamas and Palestinian resistance groups, has to be on the basis of respecting the will of the Palestinian people and their democratic choice and not on the basis of placing conditions like that of the Quartet, as imposing conditions on others, is a problematic matter and unsuitable for free nations," Meshaal said.
The Hamas chief added that Obama's stance on halting settlements and the right of Palestinian self-determination needed to move beyond words to concrete gains for Palestinians.

"America's talk today of freezing settlements and of a Palestinian state is not new. More important is the extent of their response to the rights of our people and the reality of the Palestinian state they talk about in terms of its sovereignty," Meshaal explained, adding "that is why our stance on the Obama administration is still under examination."

Hamas has "no illusions about the new policy... we want change on the ground that will bring about an end to the occupation," he said, adding that U.S. must begin to consider Hamas as a resistance movement elected by the will of the people and not an outlawed group.

In his Cairo speech earlier this month, Obama acknowledged the Palestinian support for Hamas but added that the Islamist movement must gain legitimacy by putting an end to violence and recognizing past agreements and "Israel's right to exist."

Israeli stance "fascist"
Underscoring Obama's need for concrete action on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict Meshaal noted that Netenyahu's Tel Aviv speech earlier last week defied U.S. demands for peace in the region by insisting on continuing settlement activity.

Hamas's first outreach move towards the new administration came during Obama's Cairo visit during which former Hamas advisor Yusuf Ahmed submitted a "Peace Letter" which was delivered to Obama by CODEPINK, an advocacy group supporting Palestinians, in hopes of opening dialogue with the world's super power.
Meshaal also slammed Natenyahu's right-wing government, saying that the conditions it placed on the Palestinian statehood were unacceptable and that its demand that Palestinians recognize it as an officially Jewish state is "fascist."

"We reject the position taken by Netanyahu... on east Jerusalem, settlement activity, the right of return of Palestinian refugees and his vision of a demilitarised Palestinian state deprived of sovereignty over its land, air space and territorial waters," Meshaal said.

Meshaal said Hamas opposed Israel as a Jewish state because that would amount to the denial of the rights of the six million Palestinian refugees.

"The enemy's leaders call for a so-called Jewish state is a racist demand that is no different from calls by Italian Fascists and Hitler's Nazism," Mashaal said.

Emad Gad, political analyst and expert on Palestinain-Israeli conflict said Meshaal's speech represented Hamas's official response to the two previous official speeches from Obama and Netanyahu.

"It certainly recaps Hamas's position on the Obama administration and the Israeli government's latest stance in an official response given from Damascus," Gad told Al Arabiya.

Unity Talks
Meshaal also announced the resumption of Palestinian unity talks in Cairo in the coming weeks, stressing the need for unity among Palestinian ranks to topple the occupation and achieve independence.

"Hamas will work swiftly to end the rifts in Palestinian ranks and achieve national reconciliation through talks being brokered by Egypt," Meshaal announced. "To this end, a delegation will travel to Cairo in the next two days to tackle the obstacles," he added.

Egyptian mediators set July 7 as the target date for a deal of reconciliation between Hamas and the West Bank-based leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas after months of irresolute negotiations to mend the rift sparked by Hamas's control of Gaza in 2007.

In recent years Hamas officials have signalled that they may be ready to accept a Palestinian state limited to the territories seized in the 1967 Middle East war despite a commitment in the movement's charter to regaining the whole of historic Palestine.

donderdag 2 juli 2009

Israel en VN oneens over aantal checkpoints

Interessanter dan het geneuzel over timing (Wat maakt dat uit? De VS komen er heus ook wel achter als Israel die uitbreiding een week later had aangekondigd, en zou dan evengoed reageren) is de melding dat het Israelische leger en de VN samen een tour door de Westbank maakten en de checkpoints en roadblocks in kaart brachten. Ze kwamen echter tot verschillende aantallen:
The explanation for the discrepancy between the OCHA and IDF numbers has to do with the way one defines a checkpoint. The 14 that the IDF says it maintains in the West Bank are deep inside the territory and could potentially impact Palestinian movement even though they are not manned on a full-time basis.
After removing the 21 roadblocks over the past 18 months, a Palestinian can now travel from Jenin to Hebron without passing even one roadblock or undergoing even one inspection. While some roadblocks remain in the territory, the IDF says they don't have a major impact on Palestinian freedom of movement. At the same time, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni is considering lifting some of the remaining checkpoints.
OCHA, on the other hand, includes unmanned checkpoints in its count. In addition, the OCHA number includes the crossings into Israel, since some of them are located just over the Green Line. The IDF does not count these since they are manned by the Border Police and do not impact Palestinian freedom of movement. There is also the question of OCHA's political motivations and whether its reports are objective. Israel doesn't think they are.
De verklaring dat OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) ook niet bemenste checkpoints meerekent is in tegenspraak met de bewering eerder in het artikel dat zij 68 bemande checkpoints telt. Idioot dat redacteuren zulke fouten mogen maken. Verder blijft het grotendeels onduidelijk waar het verschillende aantal van beide partijen door is veroorzaakt. Er staan toch geen 54 checkpoints langs de grens van Israel met de Westoever?

Analysis: Diplomatic faux pas, or calculated message?
Jun. 29, 2009


Israel has a thing with timing, particularly around important diplomatic meetings.

In January, 2007, for example, then-prime minister Ehud Olmert flew down to Sharm el-Sheikh for a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Shortly before Olmert's plane took off, the IDF launched a rare daytime raid on downtown Ramallah in search of a terror suspect. Pictures of the raid - in which four people were killed and 20 wounded - were broadcast live on Al Jazeera. Needless to say, this was not constructive for the Olmert-Mubarak meeting.

On Monday, timing was again not taken into consideration with the Defense Ministry revealing in a court affidavit it had approved the construction of 50 homes in the West Bank settlement of Adam under a master plan for the Binyamin Region that includes the construction of 1,450 housing units.

The affidavit was filed just hours before Defense Minister Ehud Barak left for New York to meet with the US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell to discuss America's demand that Israel stop exactly what the Defense Ministry affidavit was approving - continued settlement construction.

There are two possibilities regarding the bad timing in this case. One option is that the court had simply set the date for filing the affidavit without taking any external factors into account. However, one could ask why the Defense Ministry, which knew early last week about Barak's meeting with Mitchell, didn't just ask the court for an extension - something the ministry often does in similar cases.

The second possibility is that the filing of the affidavit as Barak left for the US was done on purpose to send a message to the Obama administration that Israel does not plan to cave in completely to America's demand for a settlement freeze. The construction in Adam is meant to pave the way for the evacuation of the illegal settlement of Migron, which is in itself just as important to the US - if not more so, since the outpost was built on private Palestinian land.

Barak, according to some officials, plans to offer the Americans a three month freeze on construction but will claim Israel needs to allow natural growth to continue, particularly in the settlement blocs.

So while Barak is limited in what he can propose to Mitchell regarding the settlements, he does have some maneuvering room on the issue of freedom of movement in the West Bank, the transfer of security over Palestinian towns to the Palestinian Authority and the evacuation of illegal outposts.

In their meeting, Barak will present Mitchell with a list of the gestures Israel has made to the PA over the past 18 months, including the removal of 21 manned roadblocks in the West Bank. A year-and-a-half ago, there were 35 manned checkpoints. Today, there are 14. The IDF has also removed over 100 dirt mounds that had been placed on roads in the West Bank, effectively blocking Palestinian traffic.

However, according to the Americans there is a lot more that can be done.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are still 68 manned checkpoints throughout the West Bank, and an additional 24 "partial checkpoints" which are staffed, according to the agency, on an ad-hoc basis. In addition the checkpoints, OCHA claims that there are 521 obstacles in the West Bank - such as earth mounds - that block off Palestinian access to West Bank roads.

What was unique about OCHA's report was that it was the product of a first-of-its-kind joint survey of the West Bank roadblock situation by the UN and the IDF. The joint tour of the West Bank roadblocks was initiated by Col. Benny Shik, the IDF Central Command's chief engineering officer, who is responsible for dismantling the checkpoints.

The explanation for the discrepancy between the OCHA and IDF numbers has to do with the way one defines a checkpoint. The 14 that the IDF says it maintains in the West Bank are deep inside the territory and could potentially impact Palestinian movement even though they are not manned on a full-time basis.

After removing the 21 roadblocks over the past 18 months, a Palestinian can now travel from Jenin to Hebron without passing even one roadblock or undergoing even one inspection. While some roadblocks remain in the territory, the IDF says they don't have a major impact on Palestinian freedom of movement. At the same time, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni is considering lifting some of the remaining checkpoints.

OCHA, on the other hand, includes unmanned checkpoints in its count. In addition, the OCHA number includes the crossings into Israel, since some of them are located just over the Green Line. The IDF does not count these since they are manned by the Border Police and do not impact Palestinian freedom of movement. There is also the question of OCHA's political motivations and whether its reports are objective. Israel doesn't think they are.

The motivation of both sides for conducting the joint tour, though, is clear. The IDF has an interest in getting the word out about the roadblocks it has lifted. At the same time, OCHA has the opportunity to obtain its information from the source, which is in this case the IDF.

Israelische marine onderschept schip op weg naar Gaza

Israel hield dit schip niet tegen omdat het de Gazanen geen humanitaire hulp gunt, maar omdat het niet wil dat Hamas een en ander weer kan uitbuiten voor eigen politiek gewin, en de actievoerders het zelf ook meer om de publiciteit en het aanklagen van Israel is te doen dan om daadwerkelijk de Gazanen te helpen. Bovendien komt humanitaire hulp gewoon binnen via de grensovergangen met Israel. Er is overigens een hele simpele manier voor Hamas om een einde te maken aan de blokkade: Shalit vrijlaten. Ook derden kunnen Hamas daartoe oproepen en het zelf verantwoordelijk houden voor de situatie in Gaza.
The Israel Navy has prevented a propaganda ship from entering Gaza port. Those who really want to transfer humanitarian aid to Gaza can do so through land crossings. This ship of activists was not interested in helping little children and helpless people, but in making a political point - legitimizing the genocidal Hamas in the name of "human rights." Too bad they will get as much publicity from having the ship intercepted as they would have had had it been allowed to pass. But previous experience shows that the activists who arrive in Gaza are not content to distribute aid, but insist on holding press conferences comparing Israelis to Nazis, which is what their "mission" is really about.
IDF Navy intercepts Gaza-bound ship
Jun. 30, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
An IDF Navy unit took over a ship that was en route to breaking the naval closure on the Gaza Strip, the IDF said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
Overnight, Navy troops spotted a vessel with a Greek flag, which had embarked on a journey from the port of Larnaca in Cyprus towards the Gaza Strip.
After the Navy contacted the ship and realized it was headed to Gaza, the troops clarified that the Strip is under naval closure and that because of security concerns it will not be allowed to reach the beach of Gaza.
The ship, named Arion, continued sailing to Gaza despite the Navy's warnings, and after refusing to heed consecutive calls not to sail to the Strip, Navy troops mounted the ship and navigated it to the Ashdod port.
The Arion's crew and passengers will be transferred over to relevant authorities, the military statement said.
The IDF added that any entity wishing to transfer humanitarian aid can do so through land crossings, after coordinating with the relevant Israeli authorities.

woensdag 1 juli 2009

Enquete onder Russische immigranten in Israel

De integratie van de Russische immigranten in Israel laat nog wat te wensen over, maar zo'n tweederde zou niet meer ergens anders willen leven. Een deel mocht al in de jaren '70 de Sovjetunie verlaten, maar de grote stroom kwam op gang na de ineenstorting van de USSR. Meer dan een miljoen Russen en andere Sovjetburgers van Joodse afkomst en hun verwanten emigreerden naar Israel.

Poll of immigrants from former USSR:
64% would choose to live in Israel 15% W. Europe 8% USA 5% Russia if had choice
Dr. Aaron Lerner
Date 30 June 2009

Telephone poll of a sample of 300 Russian speakers from the former Soviet Union carried out in the last days by New Wave and published in Yisrael Hayom on 29 June 2009:

As compared to Israeli culture, is Russian culture higher than it?
Higher 62%
Lower 6%
Same 13%
Don't know 19%

If it were up to you, where would you like to live?
Israel 64%
Western Europe 15%
USA 8%
Russia 5%
Don't know 8%

Do immigrants from the former Soviet Union suffer from discrimination in Israel?
Yes 57%
No 34%
Don't know 9%

What culture would you like your children to be influenced more by?
Russian 43%
Israeli 18%
Both same extent 29%
Don't know 10%

Have you encountered hostility that you associate with your being a Russian speaker?
Yes 41%
No 50%

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730

Nederzettingenbouw gaat door terwijl Barak VS bezoekt

De afgelopen jaren zouden er onder Ehud Barak weinig bouwvergunningen zijn afgegeven voor de Israelische nederzettingen, maar het aantal gebouwen schijnt evenals voorheen met 1000 tot 2000 per jaar toegenomen te zijn, wellicht deels zonder vergunning. Dat leid ik af uit de website van Peace Now, die de nederzettingenbouw sinds 1990 in de gaten houdt. Jeruzalem is hierbij niet meegeteld. Alleen over 2007 vind ik zo snel geen cijfers.
Zie tevens:

Givat Ze'ev expansion highlights Barak's dilemma amid US talks
Tovah Lazaroff and Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST
As Defense Minister Ehud Barak heads to the US to hammer out a deal on settlement construction, the Givat Ze'ev settlement, located just northwest of Jerusalem, is about to experience its largest population boom in at least 10 years, and possibly since its founding in 1983.

Located along Route 443, Givat Ze'ev, which in 2008 had 11,000 residents, has grown by just 700 people in the previous eight years. The growth was fueled mostly by births, as more people left than moved in.

But this year, work is nearing completion on more than 300 homes, authorized under prime minister Ehud Olmert, and the town is waiting for signatures on 380 more, which Olmert had also said would be approved.

The town should grow by about 1,000 people in 2009 - the kind of growth previously seen only in the largest settlement cities of Modi'in Illit, with a population of 41,700, Betar Illit with 34,700 and Ma'aleh Adumim with 33,800.

A "settlement freeze" that would suspend all construction would heavily impact Givat Ze'ev and these other large settlements that routinely build several hundred apartments a year. In Modi'in Illit in 2008, for example, work was begun on 600 apartments.

On Sunday, Givat Ze'ev Council head Yossi Avrahami said he feared "we will have to fight for the 380" apartment units that need final approval, even as he expressed confidence that the remainder of the construction authorized in his settlement would continue, no matter what happened in the US.

Barak is scheduled to meet in New York on Monday with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell to hammer out an agreement on the issue.

Barak on Sunday denied reports that Israel had decided to freeze all Jewish building in the West Bank for three months, including for natural growth, saying there had been no agreement on this yet in Jerusalem.

"The relations and understandings with the US are very important to Israel," Barak said prior to Sunday's cabinet meeting, adding that Israel supported regional peace initiatives which include negotiations with the Palestinians.

But the Palestinian Authority has conditioned negotiations with Israel on a total settlement freeze, something that has never happened since the first settlement, Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, was founded 42 yeas ago.

Barak said that this issue, which he called "the issue in the headlines," had not been fully agreed upon in Israel.

"As I already said, the issue in the headlines has not been agreed upon, and it is clear that among the range of issues with the Americans regarding the regional situation - the agreement with the Palestinians, the chances of an agreement with the Syrians, the hope that this will yield an agreement also with Lebanon - all these things are still in the early stages and are very important to us, and will all be discussed," he said. "But the issue itself as was presented in the headlines is an issue that has not been agreed upon."

Yediot Aharonot reported on Sunday that Barak would recommend a settlement freeze for three months to restart the negotiations with the PA.

Barak - according to the paper - will also tell the Americans that Israel does plan to continue finishing building some 2,000 housing units that are in advanced stages of construction.

Among the items expected to be on the agenda in the discussions with the Americans are how to define a settlement freeze, at what stage construction would be stopped, and beyond what stage of construction would houses be allowed to be completed.

The report struck a nerve in both Givat Ze'ev and Ma'aleh Adumim, both places where the Likud garnered more votes than any other party in February's national election.

It's not the first time in the current government's short history that it and settler leaders have been at odds.

Since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's return from Washington last month, settler leaders have said they fear he would not authorize any new construction permits in Judea and Samaria, including in the large settlement cities situated close to the Green Line where the bulk of settlement growth has occurred in the past decade.

No building permits have been authorized anywhere in the West Bank since November.

On Sunday, settler leaders scrambled to verify reports of a freeze on ongoing construction, even as they said they did not believe such a step was possible.

"There is a strong majority within the coalition and within the government, Defense Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office that opposes even a temporary freeze," said Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

In Ma'aleh Adumim, where workers are building some 400 apartments, Mayor Benny Kashriel, who is a member of the Likud Central Committee, said he had tried with no success to verify the media reports.

"It would go against promises Netanyahu made both before and right after the elections," Kashriel said.

He promised that if the reports were true, Netanyahu could expect vigorous opposition both from within the Likud and on the part of settler leaders.

He added that there were technical difficulties with freezing ongoing construction that involved breaking contracts with contractors and buyers who had already purchased apartments. Kashriel warned that court cases would quickly be opened in response to any deal to freeze construction that Barak might work out.

When one drives through Givat Ze'ev one can see that work is almost completed on some 250 apartments in a new haredi neighborhood, in a settlement that has a broad population mix, from secular to modern Orthodox and haredi. Another 80 units are expected to be completed soon after in the project, which is known as Agan Ha'ayalot.

At issue for Givat Ze'ev is the remaining 380 apartments, which Olmert promised would be authorized, but for which final signatures are pending, according to Avrahami.

The project, which was initially authorized in 1999, was frozen in 2000, at the start of the second intifada, when violence along Route 443 that leads to Givat Ze'ev made it hard to attract investors and buyers. Olmert allowed the project to move forward in 2008, after contractors who had found new investors and buyers by targeting the haredi market sued the state.

Also under construction in Givat Ze'ev are several hundred additional apartments authorized under Olmert, of which at least 100 are expected to be finished this year.

Following Sunday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu met together with Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Likud Ministers Dan Meridor and Bennie Begin to discuss the upcoming Barak-Mitchell meeting.

Netanyahu, who postponed a meeting with Mitchell last Thursday in Paris, is expected to meet with the envoy once the settlements issue is ironed out.

One diplomatic official noted that it was telling that Barak, not Lieberman, who was leading the negotiations with the US on this matter, a stark contrast to when Tzipi Livni was foreign minister and was closely involved in the discussions with the US.

The official said it was not clear whether the US preferred dealing with Barak rather than Lieberman; whether Netanyahu was keen on distancing Lieberman from this issue because of the foreign minister's uncompromising position on the matter; or whether the Israel Beiteinu chairman himself did not want to get involved in the settlement issue so he would not eventually be seen as one of the architects of a policy opposed by most of his party's constituents.